Makedonia Palace, Thessaloniki, Greece
Opening of new EBRD office
It is, as ever, an enormous pleasure to be in Greece.
And to be here today in this great, ancient amd historical city of Thessaloniki.
We are truly honoured to welcome here today:
- the Mayor of Thessaloniki, Mr Konstantinos Zervas,
- the Regional Vice Governor of Central Macedonia, Mrs Voula Patoulidou
- the President of the Federation of Industries of Greece, Mr Athanasios Savvakis, with whom we discussed just over a year ago the idea of the Thessaloniki office
- and our friends from the EIB Athens office who fund our small business work here in Greece, represented today by Mrs Eleni Gioti.
You will hear from them all shortly.
Today’s opening of our office here in Thessaloniki marks a very important milestone for EBRD and, I believe, for Greece as well.
I discussed this – and much else - with Prime Minister Mitsotakis and Ministers Georgiadis and Tsakiris when we met for the first time earlier today.
We had a very positive conversation about where Greece is going and the strategic value that the EBRD can add on this journey.
And during that meeting I also stressed my conviction – and, I know, that of many others – that now is the time, more than ever, for investors to look for and seize the many opportunities to be had here.
I very much look forward to working closely with the new government, enhancing our cooperation with the Greek authorities at every level and paving the way for more foreign direct investment.
We will always have an ally in that effort in Anthony Bartzokas, Greece's representative on the EBRD Board of Directors and a son of this region.
Ladies and gentelmen, the EBRD has itself been investing in Greece since 2015.
I vividly recall the lead up to our decision to work here, the Board decision itself and the opening of our office in Athens a year later.
I remember being asked more than once: “Why is the EBRD expanding into Greece?”
The answer was simple then and it is simple now. We are supporting Greece in its recovery from a very severe crisis. And we have real faith in the potential and prospects for the Greek economy.
That confidence in Greece's future, and the EBRD's part in it, led to the decision to open a second office, this time in Thessaloniki.
Nothing could better underline our commitment to the country.
And, by the way, also illustrate the way that the EBRD operates across whole countries, not just in national capitals.
Let me take this opportunity, while here, to pay tribute once again to the people of Greece.
Many of them have had to put up with extraordinary hardship in recent years.
We are aware of their many sacrifices and are glad that the economy is gradually picking up again.
Clearly, nothing can break the spirit of the Greek people.
You are overcoming these trials and tribulations, just as you have many others in the past.
- The EBRD and Greece
And we at EBRD are committed to helping Greece on this recovery and beyond. Let me highlight briefly what the EBRD’s overall impact has been in Greece.
The total of our investments stands at nearly €3 billion.
Only last year, our business volume in the country reached €850 million, making Greece our third largest market in 2018.
Given that we only opened for business here a few years previously, that’s an amazing achievement.
To give you an idea of the range of our investments in Greece, our smallest last year was a €1 million equity investment in the Energy Exchange and the largest a €1 billion syndicated loan for the Trans Adriatic Pipeline.
This year we have also teamed up with the government to roll out a new EU-funded programme to promote sustainable tourism in two of the country’s most popular holiday islands – Rhodes and Santorini.
It is little surprise then that, recognising our contribution to Greece’s economic recovery and the benefits of our further engagement, the Greek authorities have requested – and our shareholders approved - an extension of our mandate in Greece until 2025.
3. The new office
The new office in Thessaloniki will play a part in this extended mandate.
This is my second visit to Thessaloniki and I am more than ever convinced that this is an amazing - and very welcoming - city.
So I would like to thank the team in Athens who have worked so hard on the opening of the new office and welcome our new colleagues to the EBRD family.
The Thessaloniki team will be primarily working on support for SMEs in Northern Greece.
The office will also be a perfect gateway to support businesses in this region who want to extend their foootprint in the wider Balkans.
Being close to our existing clients and reaching new ones, even in more remote regions, is very important to us.
In fact, more than 70 per cent of the companies we have already worked with are based outside Athens.
Our donors, the European Union through the European Investment Advisory Hub, and the Government of Greece, have been generously supporting us in this.
We are extremely grateful to them for their help.
Overall, with our donors’ support, we have reached over 40 Greek SMEs, many of them led by women or young entrepreneurs, in less than two years.
4. Conclusion and thanks
None of this – our performance in Greece and the new office in Thessaloniki now – would have been possible without the amazing leadership of Sabina Dziurman, the EBRD Head of Greece and Cyprus. So please join me in thanking Sabina for everything she has done to make our work here such a success.
Sabina is retiring soon. But I am sure that she will stay a very good friend of the Bank. And of Greece.
I would also like to introduce you to Andreea Moraru, our new Head of Greece and Cyprus, who is taking over at the end of October.
Andreea is one of our very talented bankers, one who has enjoyed a remarkable career at the Bank already and is very well qualified to build on what we have achieved so far.
Let me also single out for special praise Dimitra Papandreou, the head of our small business operations in Greece.
If you don’t know her already, I’m sure you will do soon.
So, today ladies and gentlemen, we celebrate the opening of our second office in Greece.
It will help us to do even more for the private sector across the country as a whole and further strengthens our presence in the wider region.
Efharisto poli (thank you very much) and welcome to the EBRD in Thessaloniki!